Snake Charmers, Monsters, Hoaxes

 Snake Charmers, Monsters, HoaxesA group of college students and I were discussing UFOs, the Loch Ness Monster, and the snake charmers of India. One young lady who had been very quiet finally spoke to another student who had not participated in the discussion and said, “And what have you substituted for God?” The stunned silence of the group demonstrated the perceptive nature of the question, which effectively ended the discussion. Snake charmers, monsters, hoaxes, and other deceptions are not a substitute for God.

Many Americans seem to be “turned off” by religion. They have seen so many frauds, rip-offs, and totally dishonest approaches that they have rejected the whole concept of God. As a substitute for God, they have accepted a variety of things. Some have embraced the idea that aliens from space are their only hope of immortality. Some have embraced the Eastern religions and philosophies such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Bahai, and Islam.

One of the approaches of those who attempt to convince us to follow their beliefs is to astound us with “mystic” demonstrations. We have all seen pictures and videos of snake charmers who play a long flute as a great cobra sways back and forth. This is one of the oldest of all hoaxes dating back to at least 300 B.C. Snakes do not have ears, so obviously they don’t respond to the music which is for the crowd’s benefit. The flute is then lowered over the snake’s head so that when the charmer blows, the wind continues to arouse the snake to follow the motion of the pipe. Snake charmers often make a small incision in the face of the snake to cut the ducts leading to the fangs. Then even if the snake bites the charmer, its bite will not be lethal.

How do people walk on beds of coals, run skewers through their cheeks, and lay down on beds of nails? Studies by anthropologists have discovered two factors. One is the extensive preparation of the skin by rubbing, sanding, scraping, and other techniques that make huge callouses. The second is the use of drugs which not only kill pain but may also affect blood flow and body temperature. Medical science has had an interest in those drugs for use in modern medicine.

What about monsters? Whether it’s Nessie, Bigfoot, Yeti, or giants, all attempts to prove the existence of monsters of any kind end in failure. The critical thing to remember is that snake charmers, monsters, hoaxes, and other deceptions are out there. People are giving up God and accepting false money-making tricks. We should embrace the Bible as our source of truth and Jesus Christ as Lord without allowing anyone to mislead us. Every shred of evidence we have proves the Bible to be trustworthy, and those other claims to be false.

Do not allow human trickery to mislead you religiously or otherwise. “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12) from God’s Word. Salvation is free and available to anyone. The bottom line is beware of snake charmers, monsters, hoaxes, and other deceptions. Use your God-given intelligence to investigate all claims, and you will find truth in Christianity, not the tricks of men.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Christ and Creation

Christ and CreationOne of the more difficult ideas for humans to grasp is the concept of what God is. Closely related to that is the problem of how Christ could be divine and yet live as a man in the flesh here on Earth. We need to examine how the Bible presents Christ and creation.

First, we must understand that God is a non-physical being existing in a higher dimension. The fact that Jesus was divine is a critical issue to the Christian system. Since Jesus was divine, His existence (like God’s) must not be physical even if He manifested Himself for a short time as a man. A popular idea in secular and even religious circles today is that Jesus was just a very good man and moral teacher. That modernist idea compromises the concept of Jesus dying to save a lost world of sinners.

The Bible presents Christ and creation by making it abundantly clear that Jesus existed before the creation. It portrays Him as independent of the limitations of time. Beginning in John 1:1, we read:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him; and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. …. (verse 14) And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us…”

To understand this passage, we must understand the real meaning of the word translated “Word” in these verses. The word used in the original Greek is “logos.” To Greek philosophers, this word meant the first cause of all things. The fact that the first cause became flesh clearly indicates that Jesus is the subject of the verses.

In John 8:58, Jesus further illustrates this point by saying, “…Before Abraham was, I am.” John 16:28 indicates Jesus came into the world by coming forth from the Father, thus indicating His existence prior to that coming forth. John 17:5 makes it even more evident when Jesus says, “And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.” Colossians 1:15-17 deals with Christ and creation by identifying Jesus’ role in the creation with these words:

“Who is the image of the invisible God, the sovereign of all creation. For in him all things were created, both in the heavens and on Earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities-all things have been created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”

If we understand the nature of God, all of this makes a great deal of sense. God, being the Creator of our three-dimensional world, can interact with the world in any way He wishes. We can manipulate and totally comprehend the markings on a two-dimensional sheet of paper because we exist in a higher dimension. So it is with God and us as Acts 17:28 indicates “we live and move and have our being” in God. This is our relationship to the Creator and clarifies how God can do the things He has done in human history.

Jesus was in the form of God (Philippians 2:6) but came to Earth and became flesh to provide a bridge between God and us. Hebrews 4:15 tells us, “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” We do not have a God who is removed and remote from our problems. We will not be able to say on the day of judgment, “Lord, you don’t know how it is on Earth.” God bridged the gap and eliminated that excuse. Jesus felt every temptation we feel! We can see the wisdom of God in this, and it should excite us and encourage us as we strive to follow the example Jesus gave.

The more we understand of Christ and creation, the more we comprehend the significance of Christ’s sacrifice for us. As we understand the beauty and wonder of creation, we are awe-struck by the excellent planning and wisdom. Let us praise our great God who loves us and has bridged the gap as only He could do.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Intellectually Honest Skepticism

Intellectually Honest SkepticismAs I speak on college and university campuses, a large number of people (both atheists and religious) find a statement I like to open with to be astounding. The statement is, “You can intelligently and logically and rationally believe in God.” There is an immediate air of doubt in the minds of many who cannot or do not want to believe it. I don’t know how many of them change their minds in the course or our lectures. Skepticism abounds today, but what we need is intellectually honest skepticism willing to seek the truth.

Certainly one major factor has been that various churches, groups, and individuals have dogmatically forced a creed of creationism upon all members. Those creeds frequently fly in the face of both science and common sense. The more capable and clearest thinking young people who refuse to be force-fed this dogma, simply leave the church. Many of the leading atheist speakers in the United States today came from a church background.

The growth of aggressive atheism is another factor leading many to think that intelligent, logical belief in God is impossible. Attractive websites and high budget, colorful printed materials promote naturalism, if not downright atheism. Saturated with scientific materialism and locked into a mindset that anything religious is automatically wrong, they claim to be the only voice of reason, logic, and competent science.

Instead of skepticism referring to a healthy, scientifically rigorous approach to issues and solving problems, the word has become synonymous with an anti-religion mindset. It is evident that, in a great many cases, the atheist community has completely taken over the concept of skepticism.

I want to suggest that intellectually honest skepticism is Christian in nature, and it is the approach Jesus used in His ministry and teachings. In fact, the Bible condemned religionism more strongly than atheism. The Bible makes only fleeting references to atheism. (See Romans 1:19-23.) The strong condemnation statements of Christ, and the Bible writers in general, come down on the religious leaders who force their traditions on the population. The teachings of Christ focused on attitudes and how we treat each other. The religious establishment constantly criticized Christ because He did not adhere to their traditions. His teaching was logical, practical, and pragmatic not built on the traditions of the past. He asked questions and awaited logical responses.

Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (5th Edition) defines a skeptic as “one who carries a critical or incredulous attitude into his inquiries.” Skepticism is defined as “the doctrine that all knowledge is uncertain.” This does not mean that skeptical minds reject anything that is not physical. Limiting our belief system to only what we can see, smell, touch, feel, and hear precludes all kinds of things. A vast percentage of nuclear physics, quantum mechanics, relativistic physics, and even some mathematics depends upon knowledge that does not involve the senses.

Intellectually honest skepticism demands inquiry and also recognizes that knowledge is uncertain because humans are uncertain. This does not mean that there is no such thing as truth. It just means that skeptics should be aware of their own limitations and of the human capacity to misjudge. Intellectually honest skeptics know the danger of preconceived ideas and their approach should be humble, open, and careful. Being skeptical does not mean that a person has no beliefs, morals, or convictions. I can have strong convictions and beliefs and can communicate those to others and still have the ability to change my beliefs and understandings.

Unfortunately, skepticism in today’s American culture is at least as dogmatic as ultraconservative, fundamentalistic religion. Any skeptics who would question Darwin, would likely be castigated by their peers. There is a need for intellectually honest skepticism in the world. I am a skeptic in approach, but there are some basic things that my skeptical approach has led me to believe strongly. If we reason together in an open, skeptical way, we can learn. Blind, closed skepticism and blind, closed dogmatism are impossible to tell apart to those who are seeking the truth.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Fetal Tissue Medical Research

Erasing Fetal Tissue Medical ResearchThe U.S. government makes money available for grants to investigate cures for everything from cancer to Alzheimer’s. New rules restrict federal money available for medical research that uses fetal tissue from elective abortions. All kinds of inflammatory arguments have been made about this, as they have in the past. The Los Angeles Times claims that the restrictions on funding fetal tissue medical research are “nothing more than a sop to the religious right.”

The issue of fetal tissue medical research demands more thoughtful reporting. Here are some interesting facts that we have not seen reported in the major media:

Using fetal cell materials creates a huge potential for abuse. Women can be paid to produce fetuses for abortion, as some documented cases have shown. Planned Parenthood has had a particular problem with this issue.

Government grants in the past have focused on fetal remains. Because of that, alternatives such as pluripotent stem cells derived from adult cells have not been investigated in the U.S., as they have in other countries such as Japan.

Only three of 75 vaccines available in the United States still utilize legacy fetal cell lines.

The artificial production of fetal tissue can supply many of the needs of research projects. The potential is there, but research in this area has slowed because of the availability of fetal tissue from abortion clinics.

Conflict over the use of fetal tissue medical research, like most other issues, can be solved by people working together. Unfortunately, modern media outlets continue to distort the facts to promote their own political position. There is a difference between reporting the news and promoting the news.

When we consider all of the evidence, it should be obvious that fetal tissue can uniquely be used for some medical research, but making it the only test material available to researchers is unwise and unnecessary.

If we reduce the market value of aborted babies and look for other new tools of research, our value on all human life can do nothing more than improve.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Reference: The Week, June 21, 2019, page 5.

Take the High Road

Take the High RoadSeveral years ago, I was giving a lecture on the existence of God in a university science auditorium in downtown Chicago. I had shown the strong evidence that the cosmos was not the product of chance. At the beginning of the question/answer session, an atheist jumped to his feet, ran to a window on the edge of the auditorium, drew open the curtain, and pointed to the ghetto that surrounded the university. “If there was a God,” the atheist shouted, “He would never let a mess like this exist!” He then went into details about the pain, disease, loneliness, and poverty that was so dominant in inner-city neighborhoods. A huge sign left over from an inner-city high school career day hung in the auditorium where we were meeting. The sign said, “Take the High Road out of the Neighborhood-Get an Education.”

I asked the atheist about the meaning of the sign. He responded that it meant that the university offered programs that would help young people develop their talents so they could get a job and work their way out of poverty. “Does it take any effort or involvement on the part of the young people themselves?” I asked. “Of course,” he said. I replied, “God has never done for us what we could do for ourselves. If you want to take the high road out poverty, drugs, abuse, prostitution, or any other destructive behavior, you have to take advantage of the opportunities given to you.”

The road to destruction is a road of inactivity. It’s a road where we expect God or other people to solve our problems with no activity on our part. If we follow the low road, it won’t solve the problems. It will lead to a lack of appreciation, lack of satisfaction, lack of identity, lack of commitment, and poor self-esteem. There are many applications of this to welfare, foreign aid, and other problems of our government.

When people look at the problems of society today and ask why God doesn’t solve them, two fundamental principles apply. The first is that God is not the source of our problems. Ephesians 6:12 tells us that there is a spiritual battle going on between good and evil. Galatians 6:7-8 also tells us that a large percentage of what happens to us is our own doing. The purpose of our existence requires us to have the choice between good and evil, but with that choice comes negative consequences when we choose evil.

The second principle is that God expects us to be involved in overcoming the destructive forces in our lives. I firmly believe that my journey out of atheism and my ability to cope with a severely damaged child did not happen because of my own strength. But God did not step in and force a solution on me in either of those situations. I had to make an effort and do what I could. Once I had done all I could and gone as far as I could go, God did the rest. You will not see a single case in the Bible where God forced a person to take the high road.

A large percentage of the good things that are happening in the ghettos and substance abuse clinics is because the people doing them have tapped into God and believe that He will make things happen when they do all that they can. Deciding to take the high road to the solutions to human problems involves work and allowing God to supply what you cannot do yourself. If you have not sincerely tried it, please do not knock it, because it works.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Biblical Giants and Fake Giants

Biblical Giants and Fake GiantsOne of the enduring religious myths of all cultures is the myth of giant humans. Jack and the Beanstalk is just one of the great folk tales that frequently have religious roots. There is great confusion concerning biblical giants and fake giants.

The truth is that nowhere in the Bible is there a reference to humans two or three times the size of modern humans. Furthermore, there is absolutely no factual find of a giant human skull or body. There have been fakes, scams, hoaxes, and money-making frauds but no factual support for giant humans.

Concerning biblical giants, here are the Hebrew words that the King James Version translated as “giant”:

“Gibbor” Job 16:14

“Rapha” Deuteronomy 2:11, 20; 3:11,13; Joshua 12:4; 13:12; 15:8; 17:15; 18:16; 2 Samuel 21:16, 18, 20, 22 ; 1 Chronicles 20:4, 6, 8.

“Nephilim” Genesis 6:4; Numbers 13:33.

A careful study of these three words shows that none of them refer to the stature of the individual. Any Hebrew dictionary will explain what the words meant when they were written. I use The New Bible Dictionary published by Eerdmans. Here are the meanings:

“Gibbor” Refers to a mighty man or hero. It is translated that way in most cases, such as in Genesis 6:4, Joshua 1:14, and 1 Samuel 9:1. However, as you can see above, the KJV also translated it as “giant,” which is misleading.

“Rapha” Usually refers to descent from Rephaim of Deuteronomy 2:20 etc. Historical and archaeological records show humans that were roughly the size of humans today. The average height of humans at that time was close to five feet. In Jesus’ time, a man five feet three inches tall is referred to in some literature as a man of great stature. Goliath, by the way, is never described as a “giant” in the Bible. First Samuel 17:4 give Goliath’s height, but there is some confusion as to whether it 6 feet 9 inches (2.06 m) or 9 feet 9 inches (2.97 m).

“Nephilim” Literally means “fallen ones” and the context of Genesis 6:4 is clearly referring to people who had rejected God and were pagans who violated God’s laws and guidance. Israel’s constant drift into paganism and idolatry is what the passage deals with, not aliens or spirit creatures.

As to fake giants, there have been many. One of the most famous was the Cardiff Giant in 1869. George Hull was a scammer who repeatedly went after religious people. He took an eleven-foot block of gypsum from a quarry and sculptured it into a giant that looked like a petrified human. He buried the “giant” on a farm and over a year later hire some people to dig a well at that spot. The diggers uncovered the “giant,” it got widespread media attention, and eventually, it sold for what would have been $600,000 today.

There are biological reasons why an 11-foot human couldn’t survive. A man named Robert Wadlow grew to eight feet eleven inches, but only lived to age 22 and was in very bad health. The Bible does not talk about giants of 12 feet or so, and there is no evidence that giants have ever lived. We need to study the text to see what the Scriptures say about biblical giants, and fake giants should arouse our skepticism.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Reference: Skeptic magazine. Volume 24 #2 2019, pages 64-73.

Mental Illness and Teen Euthanasia

Mental Illness and Teen Euthanasia
On June 2, 2019, a 17-year-old girl named Noa Pothoven starved herself to death. She had endured a long battle with mental illness resulting from multiple rapes at ages 11 and 14. It was her second attempt to end her life by starvation. Last year, medical personnel placed her in a medically induced coma and used a feeding tube to keep her alive. This time her parents respected her wishes and allowed her to die. This case brings up many issues about mental illness and teen euthanasia.

This incident took place in the Netherlands where assisted suicide is legal for troubled children as young as 12 “providing there is strong medical evidence that psychiatric conditions have made their lives ‘unbearable.’” It is wrong to assume that any human can get to a mental state that is 100% hopeless and that they cannot be helped by any treatment. Ms. Pothoven was very vocal about her pain and frustration. She wrote an autobiography titled Winning or Learning (Winnen of Leren in Dutch) to describe her anguish. She had 10,000 Instagram followers and shortly before her death she told them,“After years of fighting and fighting it is finished.”

There were numerous mistakes in the way people handled this young woman’s case. At age 11, she was raped at a school party where there should have been adult supervision. She was raped again by two men at a teen party at age 14. She was ashamed to tell her parents about the rapes, and she never reported them to the police. The trauma from those rapes resulted in periods of being housed in group homes and mental hospitals. She was turned away by a Dutch euthanasia clinic and she was on a waiting list for radical treatments such as shock therapy. Finally with the cooperation of her parents, she refused all food and drink and passed away at home.

By applying Christian love and principles of caring, people can be helped, even with conditions like this young woman. If Christian love and caring had been applied from the beginning, she would not have gotten into that condition. Human life is precious and sacred, and even severe conditions of physical or mental illness do not change that fact. Mental illness and teen euthanasia are serious matters and we hope that she does not set an example for her 10,000 Instagram followers.
— John N. Clayton and Roland Earnst © 2019

Reference: There are numerous reports of this incident on the internet. Just search for Noa Pothoven.

Human Genetic History

Human Genetic History and Denisova CaveAs more and more people have their genetic history analyzed to find out where their ancestors came from, interest has increased in the origins of human genetic history. There has been a lot of speculation on this question, and some skeptics have tried to claim that the Genesis account is incompatible with the human genome, and particularly with the very early specimens of ancient humans including Denisovans and Neanderthals.

Science News (June 8, 2019) published an interesting article by Bruce Bower about recent finds of these hominids and how they may fit into human genetic history. The first point we want to make is that the Bible has an economy of language on this subject. We do not know anything about the appearance of Adam and Eve or their offspring from the biblical account. We don’t know when they lived, or where they went as they left the Fertile Crescent where they were created. People whose denominations have established a doctrinal view on these questions do so with no biblical support.

Recent finds of the Denisovans in the Tibetan Plateau show that great migrations had taken place because the name “Denisovan” comes from the original discoveries made in Siberia’s Denisova Cave (shown in picture). Anthropologists have also found remains of the Denisovans in China. Modern humans in Asia, Melanesia, Australia, and Papua New Guinea have some Denisovan DNA. In fact, these populations show protein sequences which are more closely related to the Denisovans than the Neanderthals.

There is an old battle that has been going on among scientists for at least the last 100 years. It’s the battle between the “splitters” and the “lumpers” and how they handle human genetic history. The splitters are those who tend to put a new species identification on every new find. In this case, they have identified each of these groups as being independent of each other, so Denisovans, Neanderthals, and modern humans are each classified as a different species. The lumpers tend to say these are all variations in the original DNA, and they must all be one species since they can and did interbreed.

The biblical account takes a “lumpers” view on this question. There is more support for that view as we see evidence of ancient people doing all the things we do and finding segments of their genetic makeup in our own genome. If modern anthropologists found the skeletons of Adam and Eve, it’s hard to imagine how they would fit them into human genetic history. They certainly lived before all of the racial variations.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Mormon Doctrines Change with the Times

Mormon Doctrines Change with the TimesOne of the unique qualities of the teachings of Jesus and the Bible is the fact that they are timeless. By contrast, Mormon doctrines change with the times.

When you read the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), they are as accurate and relevant today as when Jesus spoke them. There has been no need to bend the teachings of Christ to fit the current issues such as women’s rights and racial prejudice. Jesus treated women, other races, and all people with respect. His dialogue with the Samaritan woman in John 4 shows how Jesus dealt with both women and racial prejudice. As Galatians 3:28 says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS or Mormons) re-write the Genesis account to fit their theology. They have an endowment ceremony called exaltation in the secret temple drama that is open only to the faithful. It depicts the story of Adam and Eve and “their journey from the Garden of Eden to entering into God’s presence.” The instructions, passwords, and handshakes in the ritual are considered necessary for eternal life.

The instructions come from the Book of Moses, which is part of the Mormon scriptures known as the Pearl of Great Price. Women have not been allowed to speak in the endowment ceremony. On January 3, 2019, the Salt Lake City Tribune announced that women will now be allowed to speak. In some parts of the ceremony, women were required to cover their faces with a veil, and that also was eliminated.

The roles of women and Afro-Americans have changed radically in the past 50 years in Mormon teaching. Cults and human religious groups like the Mormon doctrines change with the times, but the biblical teaching remains unchanged. We need to rely on the timeless Word of God, not the writings of religious leaders like Joseph Smith.

For more information, go to www.utlm.org where Sandra Tanner, a former Mormon, has a detailed discussion of Mormon doctrines. It is also available in the May 2019 issue of the Salt Lake City Messenger, 1358 S. West Temple, Salt Lake City, UT 84115.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Sunspots and Earth’s Climate

Sunspots and Earth’s ClimateYesterday we mentioned sunspots and their potential effect on our planet. Sunspots are areas where the local magnetic field is thousands of times stronger than on the rest of the Sun’s surface. We know that sunspots adversely affect electric grids and orbiting satellites. There are unanswered questions about sunspots and Earth’s climate.

When sunspots occur, the stronger magnetic field constricts the hot plasma of the Sun, creating a somewhat cooler area. Why is it, then, that historically in times when sunspots are rare, Earth’s climate has become colder? Are sunspots the cause, or was it just a coincidence?

Scientists refer to the period from 1645 until 1715 as the Maunder Minimum, because sunspot activity was minimal. That also corresponds with the coldest years of what is sometimes called the Little Ice Age. It was not a true ice age, but the Northern Hemisphere experienced winters that were longer and colder than usual. European rivers froze, Vikings abandoned Greenland, and farmers in Norway lost farmland to advancing glaciers.

So the unanswered question concerns sunspots and Earth’s climate. Does the lack of sunspots cause lowered temperatures on Earth, or have past trends been coincidental? We don’t know, and science cannot find an explanation. Many scientists are predicting reduced sunspot activity in the coming years. Perhaps God is providing a way to counter-balance present concerns about global warming, but only God knows what the future holds.

It is interesting that the years 1643 to 1715 also mark the reign of Louis XIV of France, known as “Louis the Great.” He was also known as “the Sun King” because he chose the Sun as his symbol, and his subjects (or perhaps Louis himself) compared him to Apollo, the ancient Greek sun god. Louis the Great reigned for 72 years during the Maunder Minimum. But even the so-called Sun King could not control the Sun. Only the Creator of the Sun, Moon, and stars can do that, and only He knows if there is a connection between sunspots and Earth’s climate.
— Roland Earnst 2019